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It was mid of May 2001, and one of the hottest days of the season. As usual, the Howrah station was busy and people were running helter-skelter. Kolkata summers can be extremely bad and even in the early hours, the heat is intolerable.

It was almost 3.45 pm when my daughter and I reached the station. I was looking for a coolie when I heard a feeble voice, ‘Didi, will you board the Rajdhani Express?’ I looked at the elderly man and wondered as to why at this age he has to work but did not feel comfortable asking him. So many people are in pain; can we wipe everyone’s tears?

‘Ah! Yes’, I said to the coolie to pick up our luggage. We had two small suitcases and a small bag. The coolie took the bag on his shoulders and suitcases on his head. He asked me the coach number and took small steps toward the train. Though it was almost 4 o’ clock the sun was still bright and burning. The coolie made us sit and was waiting for his money.

Meanwhile, my husband and his elder cousin hurriedly entered the compartment. The cousin was an interfering man and he quickly viewed the luggage and told me, ‘do not give the man more than Rs 20.’ None of us had asked him for his suggestions but there are people who like to take hold of the situation without being asked for.

The coolie heard whatever was being said but he was silent. Tears had welled up on his old and weary eyes but never spoke a word. Perhaps a younger coolie would have revolted but when people become old, they become helpless.

I took out a Rs 50 note as I had promised the man and handed him over; at that moment I experienced Heaven; the satisfaction I saw in the old man’s eyes, can never be forgotten. A hundred words came upon his lips but there was not a sound.

Moral of the story

Most of them take advantage of helpless people.

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